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17 Reviews


AltJlUsser, L. 1969 For Marx, London, Penguin; 1974 Elements
d’autocritig~, Paris, HacheUe
Arato, A. 1972a ‘Lukacs’ Theory of Reification’, Telos 11, pp25-66;
1972b Notes on ‘History and Class Consciousness’, Philosophical Forum
Vol. JII, pp386-400
Colletti, L. 1973 Marxism and Hegel London, New Left Books
Fecnberg, A. 1971 ‘Heificationand the Antimonies of Socialist Thought’


1972 l&nin. London, Ncw Left Books
Mamilieim, K. 19721cE’ol(lgy :l~ London, Routledge & Kegan Paul
Marx, K. 1968 ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ in Selected Works London, Lawrence
and Wishart; 1973 Grundrisse London, Pcnguin
Merleau-Ponly, M. 1962 The Phenomenology of Perception, London,
Routledge & Kegan Paul; 1974a Adyentures of thc Dialectic, London,
Heinemann; 1974b The PI”OSe of the World, London, Heinemann
Paci, E. 1972 The Function of the Sciences and the Meaning of Man,
Evanston, Northwestern Univcrsity Press
Phillips, D. 1974 ‘Epistemology and the sociology of knowledge’, Theory and

Glucksmann, A. 1972 ‘A Ventriloquist Structuralism’, New Left Review
72, pp68-92
Goldrnann, L. 1971 Reflections of ‘History and Class Consciousness’ in
Mes7.’Uos (ed. ) AspE’cts of Histo!’y and Class Consciousness London, Merlin
Hindess, B. 1972 ‘The “Phenomenological” Sociology of AUred Schutz’,
E£Q.!]pmy and Society Vol.l ppl-27; 1973a ‘Transcendentalism and History’,
E.£Quomy and SO(“i(‘ty Vol. 2 pp309-42; 1973b The Use of Official Statistics
in SOciology, London, Macmillan
Hirst, P. 1972, ‘Marx, Law and Crime’, Economy and SocjPty Vol.l pp28-56.

Husserl, E. 1970 TIle Crisis of European Science and Transcendental
Plwn(lmenolor;y, EV;J.nston, Northwestern University Press
Lukacs, G. 1971 IIistory and Class Consciousness London, Merlin;

Piccone, P. 1972 ‘Dialcctic and Materialism in Lukacs’, ~ 11, ppl05-33
Ranciere, J. 1972 ‘Althusser and Ideology’, Radical Philosophy 7
Revai, J. 1972 Review of Georg Lukacs’ ‘History and Class ConSCiousness’,
Theoretical Practice No. 1
Sartre, J”:P. 1949 The Psychology of the Imagination London, Rider;
1957 Being and NOUJinilllg§ji, London, Methuen; 1960 Critique de la Raison
dialedigue Paris, Gallimard; 1963a The Problem of Method, London,
Methuen; 1963b Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions, London, Methuen
Stedman-Jones, G. 1971 ‘The Marxism of ,the Early Lukacs, New Left
Review 70 pp27-64
Westergaard, J. 1970 ‘The Rediscovery oE the Cash Nexus, Socialist
Register 1970



Kate Soper
Agnes Heller, The Theory of Need in Marx,
translated from the German, Introduction by Ken
Coates and Stephen Bodington, Alison & Busby,
London, 1976, 135pp, hardback £5.25, pb £2.95
As Hemingway, I seem to remember, somewhere
said of Pernod, so it is with this book: it takes you
up as much as it brings you down. The analogy,
however, is perhaps too frivolous for a work whose
scholarly sobriety borders on dryness; moreover,
it suggests an ease of absorption that might mislead
readers who are unaccustomed to that strange brew
of half-developed concepts, potent good sense and
flights of fancy that can be concocted from Marx’s
works and labelled (somewhat euphemistically) ‘a
theory of needs’. For it does not seem to me that
Heller has managed to offer us anything much more
readily digestible than Marx himself on this subject,
even though her project is largely one of exegesis
and synthesis – a~d I speak as one who has spent
some time in the attempt to ascertain the meaning
and coherence of Marx’s various remarks on the
subject of needs. On the other hand, it may be true
that I have approached Heller’s book with too many
preconceptions and expectations about what a work
on the theory of needs should achieve, and that
others less steeped in this aspect of Marxism will
find a good deal to interest and inspire them in this
book, if only because it sketches out an area for
consideration that is scarcely ever discussed in any
detailed way, and because it is the product of a good
deal of reflection on that area. All the same, I suspect that many readers will wish that Heller had
provided more opportunity to share in this process
of reflection. As it is, she tends merely to chart
its results, and these are often presented in an
over-condensed and disjointed form.

In all fairness, it should also be said that she has
not been well served either by her translator or by
her editor in this English edition. There is a nervous recourse to literal rendering in the translation
which betrays a failure to have construed Heller’s
precise meaning (and in several instances I have
still not managed to decipher this). Even where the
meaning is clear, it is frequently couched in rather
bizarre expressions, and the reader is confronted
with an array of undefined concepts (eg ‘community
structure’, ‘society of associated producers’, the
‘antinomies’ of capitalism, its ‘formation’, and so
on). In the case of these and other terms, some

explanation for their choice either within the text
or in a glossary would have been welcome. So too
would have been more indications (if only in the
form of section headings and bridge passages) of
the overall direction and design of the wou. ,As it
is, we are offered the pieces of a jigsaw – which is
tantalizing because we are not sure if we have all
the pieces, and wearisome because so much of the
work of assembly is left to a reader who has little
idea of the final picture to be constructed.

There are two further general features of this
book which some may find disappointing. In the first
place, there is scarcely a reference to other work
bearing on the question of needs, by which I mean
either to work outside historical materialism in
anthropology or psychology or biology, all of which
are pertinent studies, or to attempts by other Marxists to confront the vexed question of needs. Admittedly in the latter case there are a few directly
relevant works, and it may be that Heller has not
had much opportunity to assess them 1 – here I have
in mind such writers as Seve and Timpanaro, and
the debate on Marx and Fretld. Yet she also never
mentions- either Sartre or Marcuse nor any of the
economic studies that bear on the issues she
raises (Mandel, Betteiheim, Rubin) and there is
scarcely a reference to any work by Lenin or
Trotsky or Stalin. In other words, there is no
attempt to place her contribution in the context of
developments in Marxist study either in the East or
the West, though her debt to Lukacs is obvious.

There is an advantage to this in the sense that her
book is refreshingly unparasitical; it also means
that it avoids any facile classification in terms of
allegiances within current Marxology (it does not,
for example, adopt either a straightforward humanist or anti-humanist stance and cannot be located
easily in terms of such disjunctures. ) Its disadvantage is that it is restricted to Marx’s work
alone, and thus to a large extent remains a piece
of academic Marxology – an exegesis of texts which
themselves are regarded as self-sufficient ends:

getting at Marx’s meaning, rather than assessing
its worth or relevance to contemporary events,
stin seems the dominating concern. Since it scarcely
ever ventures beyond Marx’s own dicta either for
its substance or its exe~plification, the book re-1 Though her book was ori(tinally published in German, Heller is herseU
Hungarian and associated with a group of Hungarian philosophers of
Lukacian inspiration ‘Who have rel’ently been subject to a certain amount
of persecution in Hun~ary.


mains in a kind of double political abstraction from the internal politics of Marxist study and from
the politics of the concrete conjuncture.

This point connects with the second line of criticism the book might invite, namely to its unclassifiable nature from the standpoint of the humanism
versus anti-humanism debate. I suggested that this
was not in itself a bad thing, but the trouble is that
HelIer is not a ware of its implications, either as
these touch upon the debated issue of the continuity
of Marx’s problematic, or as they affect our interpretation of Marx’s work in the light of the traditional fact/value antithesis. Or if she is aware of
them~ she chooses not to spell them out. More
precisely, in regard to the first issue, I am unsure
what to make of her appeal in the last analysis to
the concepts of the Economic and Philosophical
:Manuscripts (‘Species being’, ‘alienation’) within
the context of a study whose implications suggest in
many respects enormous difficulties about the extent to which a Marxist theory of needs can be presented within the problematic of the early works.

Thus there is an ~cknowledgement, if only tacit,
of the different interpretations of the problem of
needs invited by Marx’s early works as opposed to
Capital, but the contrasts between the earlier and
later works are merely stated rather than given
any critical assessment – there is no forthright
attempt to e~-pound what is entailed by the inconsistencies to which she points. It is not even as if
HelIer had the consistency to come out strongly in
favour of a continuity in Marx’s work; on the one
hand there are many indications that she regards it
as forming a whole, and that its message on the
question of needs undergoes only minor modifications from the time of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts to Theories of Surplus Value.

Yet running parallel with this suggestion there is
another discourse which speaks in terms of Marx’s
different orientation in Capital, which is suspicious
of any speculative anthropology, and which clearly
recognizes the extent to which any attempt to provide Marx with a ‘theory of needs’ must both raise,
and attempt to solve, the question of the relationship between the evaluative thrust of Marx’s
critique and its objective, factual content.

Why a Marxist theory of needs?

“:Nhat do we understand by a ‘theory of needs’, and
why does it come up as an issue for Marxism?

HelIer does not raise either of these questions
explicitly, but I think her work can only be
assessed in terms of the framework defined by
them. In the first place, we can approach the concept of needs in terms of types or sets of needs.

From this standpoint we can distinguish, for
example, certain categories of needs (economic,
material, spiritual, cultural etc), and we can
attempt to specify what goods or services we would
include in each category. But let us note that this
approach would basically consist in a description
of needs (rather than in any account of their production), that its categories can only be defined
vaguely and that other approaches to the question of
needs will cut across the distinctions made in
terms of them. Thus a second approach might be
in terms of actual versus possible consumption:

here we distinguish between the set of goods and
services consumed by the members of society at
any given point and a set of needs which represent
goods and services which would be consumed given
altered conditions of production and distribution of
social wealth. I think it would qe a mistake to chart

this distinction in terms of ‘fulfilled’ and ‘unfulfilled’ needs, since there would be considerable
overlap between the two categories. Thus the consumption of certain goods would seem indispensable to any form of society (eg. food, clothing,
energy, m~dicine, recreation etc). The distinction
is rather that of effective versus possible demand.

Here again, our theory of needs can restrict
itself to charting patterns of actual or possible
satisfaction. That is to say, it can concentrate on
needs as consumption. Alternatively, it can raise
the question of the production and determination
of needs. In this event, the theory will have to
exte’nd itself beyond economic determinants of
supply and demand to consideration of the biological and psychological factors determining the kind
of goods and services that are produced and the
role that such fact ors play in shaping reactions of
acceptance, rejection and indifference to such production. This is need as the concept of interaction
between production and consumption, r~ther than
need as a concept used for differentiating between
goods at the level of consumption.

Thus we can (i) specify different types of need;
(ii) view their satisfaction from an effective
demand v. possible consumption distinction;
(iii) recognize that the latter distinction points in a
critical, evaluative fashion at the consumption
represented by effective demand (which is seen both
as a given set of needs and as exclusive of the satisfaction of an alternative – reduced or expanded – set
of needs); (iv) allow that the further problem then is
to determine what forces produce (a) the consumption such as it exists, (b) dissatisfaction with that
consumption of a kind that finds expression in demand that cannot be fulfilled. Any attempt to answer
this last question must refer both to economic
factors (the given mode of production) and’to biological and psychological factors, determining
‘production in general’, (so that even ‘unplanned’

modes of production cannot be wholly arbitrary in
what they produce but are structured by forces
deriving from the nature of human beings, raw
materials, environmental conditions and so on).

It must also consider the role played by these factors and conditions in moulding reactions to a given
set of ‘products’ – whether these be ‘material’ in
the strict sense or ‘immaterial’, and whether or not
they take the form of consumer goods (use-values
in the narrow sense) or represent conditions of
existence in the wide sense (working conditions,
levels of free time, availability of space, general
levels of health, sanitation, freedom from pollution,
provisions for education, for leisure, for sexuality,
child-rearing, old age, death – in fact within this
wide sense of ‘products’ we can include even such
things as the cultural patterns and ideologies
within which people live: the whole set of social
relations and material or immaterial institutions
that embody these. It might be added that in regard
to the question of reactions we might want to specify another possible line of approach to be developed
by a theory of needs: one relating to a distinction
between ‘need’ and other concepts (‘want’, ‘desire’)
expressive of attitudes to production.

Not there
In the above schema of possible approaches to the
question of needs, no reference has been made to
Marxism; this was quite deliberate because it
seems important to show the extent to which the
issues raised in the provision of a ‘theory of needs’

have a range and depth that takes usf~r beyond any-‘

thing to be found in the Marxist texts themselves:

the_Marxist theory o~ needs is not there to be extracted from a reading and exegesis of Marx’s
texts but something that is yet to be constituted.

At the same time, the theory of needs only arises
as an absent theory to be constituted because of the
development of historical materialism. Marxism
invites questions about needs which are, so to
speak, foreclosed both by pre-Marxist philosophies
of man and by non-Marxist economy and sociology.

In the first place, Marx makes a radical break with
his contemporary political economists when he
insists upon the structural dominance of production
over consumption. Where the economists of the
17th and 18th centuries had made their starting
point that of needs (rendering production necessary
to satisfy them), Marx made his starting point that
of production. That is to say, classical economy
relates economic facts to their origin in needs, or
in their utility to human subjects, thus tending to
reduce exchange-value to use-value and the latter
(‘wealth’) to human needs. The object of study of
this economics is ‘homo oeconomicus’ as possessor of a given, definitively human and measurable
set of needs. Production, distribution, exchange
and all the ‘economic’ acts that take place stem
from the satisfaction of these needs, which are
assumed as pre-given to, and thus the ultimate
explanation of, those acts. We can see, therefore,
that such an approach must use its starting-point
to define its ends; hence its positivism: economics
as a science which charts economic acts as satisfying the needs it posits as the origin of those acts.

There can be no critique of these acts or their outcome because by definition they are the only
possible acts within the space of this science.

In this respect we must note Marx’s different
analysis of consumption. Marx showed that economic needs cannot be defined by relating them to
‘human nature’: consumption is double – it includes
both individual consumption and productive consump
tion (the distinction between Department I and
Department I I). A large part of consumption is
therefore shown to be outside the direct individual
consumption of economic subjects. However, it
might be said that even if anthropological considerations (the appeal to ‘human nature’) do not enter
into determination of ‘needs’ of production, individual consumption does appear to refer us to subjects
satisfying needs. It is in regard to this point that
Marx’s break with classical economy connects with
his break with classical philosophy. For (i) he defines these needs as historical. i. e. not determined
by unchanging human nature; and (ii) actual individual consumption, the individual needs which are
satisfied through economic activity, are defined in
terms of effective demand and thus recognized as
determined by the stru~ture of production – in the
first place by the level of development of the productive forces (technical, capacities) and in the
second place by the relations of production (which
fix the distribution of income). Thus even though
anthropological considerations must retain a determinate role in the last analysis, since a given
structure of production must be related to the
nature of its human ‘supports’, we cannot move
directly to this anthropology but must first take
account of the economic definition of needs.

Moreover, even where Marx is directly concerned with needs as an anthropological rather than
economic concept, he breaks with the traditional
approach: he opens up the area in which a theory of
needs comes into play because he does not assume

them as already given. Instead of charting human
development on the basis of a given human nature
with its set of human-defining needs (which were at
most seen as accreted to and developed in the form
of satisfaction, rather than changed in their content),
he historicizes needs – and thus to the extent that
the concept of human nature plays a part in his
analysis, it itself is conceived as historical development, not as eSsence but as the sum of social
relations at a given point. Thus, both positivism in
economic theory and essentialism in anthropology
share a common conception which from the start
precludes the posing of the question of human needs
because it assumes those needs as their starting
point: a starti{lg point about which nothing can be
said because nothing is seen as needing to be said.

Marx, by contrast, opens up a space for a theory
of needs because (a) he relates economic needs to
a given structure of production which could be other
than it is in fact – thus his work takes the form of
a critique – and (b) to the’ extent that he raises the
question of anthropological determination of needs
he makes it a precondition of any study in this field
that we recognize that needs are historically
developed both in form and content.

This is not to suggest that Marx never assumes
anything about men’s needs; it is clear that if one
never allows oneself to make any claims or projections in this respect, one abandons any interest in
the fact that economic and social processes pertain
to human agents. To suggest, as does Althusser, 2
that the only needs which play an economic role in
Marx’s analysis are needs as effective demand is
to define the economic along the lines of classical
economy – as closed system, object of a pure
science, that can be studied in isolation from the
totality of the conditions of social reproduction in
which it functions as a system. Marx is not guilty
of this. Even if one regards the early theory of
alienation as not representative of his later position, it is nonetheless the case that the analysis in
Capital is underpinned by a whole set of assumptions about what would constitute appropriate
forms of production for man conceived as rational
being. Thus he constantly speaks of the wastefulness of capitalism, its failure to meet needs, the
degrading effects of machinofacture and intense
division of labour etc – aspects of capitalist produc tion which place it in a context of anthropological
needs, a context, however, which anyone simply
concerned with studying the ‘logic Df capital’

would have to relate to as an ‘interference’.

A strong point in HelIer’s work is that she
exposes, even if she fails to diSCUSS, the dimensions of Marx’s analysis and its implications from
this point of view. That is to say, she reveals the
extent to which historical materialism as ‘science’

of history calls in question traditional notions of
sCientificity based on the disjuncture between ‘fact’

and ‘value’, and the assignation of all ‘facts’ to the
realm of science and all “values’ to the realm of
morality. The anti-humanist/humanist framework
erected around contemporary Marxist studies is a
reflection of this disjuncture, ana its effect has
been to relegate all questions of needs to the domain of a ‘humanist ideology’ that is seen as running
parallel to Marx’s ‘scientific’ work but incapable of
integration with it. Hence the concern with expunging humanist ‘residues’, or with revealing them
as a ‘contamination’, or a ‘conflation’ of two distinct aspects of society. It is a pity that HelIer,
having exposed this tenSion, and shown us some of
the ways in which it is reflected in Marx’s work, __
2– See L.Althusser, Reading Capital NLB, 1970, plG6


then stops short, being content to tell us simply
that Marx ‘never separates value judgements from
economic analysis; if he had done so he would be an
anti-capitalist romantic’. She seems unconcerned
with the epistemological questions this raises.

Nor is she much concerned with questions regarding the determination of needs, so that in terms of
the schema of approaches to the theory of needs
outlined above, her emphasis is on needs as a concept of consumption. This means that she scarcely
comments at all on Marx’s ~admittedly difficult and
enigmatic) passages in the 1857 Introduction and in
Pre-capitalist Economic Formations on the rela. tionship between production and consumption, but
prefers to concentrate on his various uses of the
term ‘needs’ to designate types of need (‘material’,
‘spiritual’ etc), or to designate more and less
‘basic’ sets of need (eg his use of the terms
‘natural’ and ‘necessary’ as opposed to ‘social’ and
‘historical’ in categorising needs), or on the way
the concept functions in his economic analysis
(eg to distinguish between effective demand and
possible consumption; to specify ‘necessary’ as
opposed to ‘luxury’ consumption). It is an interesting and commendable piece of exegesis in which she
a ttempts to determine the extent to which any use of
the concept has what she calls ‘valorising emphasis’

and whether it is functioning as a philosophical or
economic category. This leads her onto a discussion of the concept of need as a ‘pure value’ category. In this connection, she argues that in rejecting capitalism, Marx takes as his point of departure
‘man rich in needs’, and that though this idea is
elaborated in the early works and not further
analysed later on, it reappears in the mature works
in references to the workers’ ‘needs of development’ and primarily in the concept of ‘Radical
needs’ – a concept which she claims plays a key
role in Marx’s theory.

As a preliminary to a fuller discussion of
‘Radical needs’, she has a fairly lengthy chapter on
the ‘general philosophic concepts of needs and the
alienation of needs’. It is a chapter bedevilled by
inadequate explication of concepts (beginning with
that of ‘philosophic’ itself), and in many places I
found it extremely difficult to follow. Its main
message is that the problem of the alienation of
needs constitutes ‘the centre of Marx’s philosophical analysis of need’. Alienation of needs is equivalent to the alienation of wealth represented in the
concept of ‘man rich in needs’. Heller analyses,
though with no great originality, the mechanisms
whereby capitalist production issues in this
alienation as a result of its one-sided development
of man. There are some interesting remarks on the
extent to which Marx fore sa w the possibilities of
capitalism’s manipulation of needs and some tantalizingly brief comments on what might be termed
the ‘ideology’ of needs. For example, referring
to Marx’s remarks on the capitalist mode of produc·
,tion’s development of ‘imaginary cravings’ she
writes: “‘imaginary needs” do not exist. Whether
needs are “normal” or whether they are “artificial”
. .. depends completely upon the value judgements
with which we define “normality”. ‘ The problem
here, however, which is not discussed, is what
determines the value jUdgements. In statements
such as these HelIer seems to be optin~ for a
wholly relative account of the philosophical concept
of need, but this position is difficult to relate to
her apparent adoption elsewhere (marked, for example, by her appeal to a concept of ‘Radical needs”
and her preparedness to make use of the framework

provided in terms of ‘alienation’ and ‘man rich in
needs’) of positions implying the existence of some
objective criteria for the evaluation of needs.

There is a similar inconclusiveness in another
interesting part of her discussion where she compares the concept of ‘interest’ with that of need.

The overcoming of alienation consists in the disappearance of ‘interest’ (as the concept of bourgeois greed). Wherever Marx uses this term, Heller
argues, whether of individual or general interest,
it is pejor3:tive, ie a reference to the narrow egoist
demands of bourgeois society, and the term is quite
opposed both to that of ‘social needs’ and to that of
‘Radical needs’. The former, so far from being the
concept of a ‘general interest’ – of a system of
needs suspended above the ‘whole or average of
personal needs’ – always in fact refers to individual
needs. The idea of a set of ‘social needs’ over and
above individual needs suggests firstly that personal
needs should be sacrificed to social needs (which
tend to be identified in fact with those of the ruling
class or elite – who then claim to be representing
what are the ‘unrecognised’ needs of the misguided
masses), and secondly that social needs are ‘real’,
actual per sonal needs ‘false’. On the contrary,
argues HelIer, though Marx uses the concept of
‘social need’ in various senses, it always refers to
personal needs either in their capacity as socially
produced, or as the set of goods purchasable by the
individual (effective demand) or in the sense of
individual needs – that depend for satisfaction on
the cooperation of others. She also stresses that
when used as an economic category of effective
demand, Marx frequently puts the term in inverted
commas, thus expressing the difference between a
structure of needs that are felt and potentially
realisable at a given stage of social development,
and the actual consumption of a given class. This,
she insists, is not a difference between conscious
effective demand and unconscious needs, but a
difference between being and not being, between
realising and not realising, between what is and
what is not satisfiable.

Now while these distinctions are inEleed to be
found in Marx’s work and HelIer does a reasonable
job of expounding them, it might still be thought an
evasion of the main problems to be confronted by a
theory of need simply to insist on the individual
character of needs. For in regard to ‘social needs’

of the socialised man, one of the major practical
problems seems to relate to the manner of reconciliation of anyone individual’s needs with the satisfaction of those of any other, and thus with the sum
of individual needs. Unless we assume unanimity
of needs we cannot simply assert theoretically and
abstractly the harmonisation of all individual needs.

It does not prima facie appear at all obvious that the
overthrow of the fetishised private / general interest
opposition of bourgeOis society means that all
problems about the relation of individual to society
will be overcome. Will there not be necessary
some ‘sacrifice’ of individual needs in favour of
the maximum satisfaction possible of social needs
(taken as the sum of individual needs)? In regard
to questions such as these HelIer is too ready to
rely on formulaic solutions.

Radical needs
A similar evasion of crucial issues recurs in her
reliance on the conc’ept of ‘Radical needs’ (I wish,
incidentally, that she had given references to
Marx’s alleged use of the concept). She wants to
use the concept to effect the reconciliation between

no rel~tion to socialist society’S system of needs,
the objectlve and evaluative aspects of Marx’s
which seems odd; also odd is the complementary
work: ‘Radical needs’, she argues, are the expresnotion that though ‘Radical needs’ belong only to
sion of the fact that communis’in should be realised:

they embody. the Ought behind the critique of capital- capitalism, they are also those responsible for
breaking down its reproduction. HelIer’s answer
ism. But hOW, she queries, does this Ought become
to these perplexities is that capitalism, by develtransposed from subjective to objective existence oping the productive forces sufficiently to overwhich I take to be a Hegelianised way of asking
come the division of labour, can and does create
about its concretisation in capitalist society, about
needs that belong to its Being but do not belong to
its non-quixotic or non-voluntaristic status. Her
its system of needs. Thus only the ‘Radical needs’

solution is to refer us to the Totality (elsewhere
deSignated confusingly as ‘formation’) of capitalism, enable man, in the interests of satisfying them, to
bring about a social formation that is radically,
which she argues needs ‘Radical needs’ in order to
‘from the root’ different from the previous one.

function: the transition to communism follows from
a double necessity – from the natural laws of
New senses
development of the capitalist mode of production
This seems to suggest that while ‘Radical needs’,
and from the necessary emergence of the collective
gua unfulfilled needs, belong only to capitalism,
subject (the bearers of ‘Radical needs’) as a result
gua fulfilled needs they belong only to the system of
of the first development. These two necessities,
she further argues, are the expression in Marx of
socialist or communist needs. Even if we can make
sense of this idea, it is scarcely obvious why it is
a double theory of contradiction, the one Hegelian
so absurd, as Heller claims, to attempt to use the
in form, the other Fichtean – though both ‘inverted’

system of capitalist society as a standpoint from
by Marx. The theory of double contradiction is
which to judge what socialism needs to provide.

HelIer’s solution to the tension between objective,
What other basis initially can there be for such
natur(lI economic laws (which find expression in the
‘contradiction between forces and relations of projudgement save that provided by the emergence of
duction’) and the ‘consciousness of this conflict and
unsatisfied needs? In effect, HelIer simply opts
the need to fight it out’. 3 The latter, incorporated
out of any discussion of the transition from capitalin ‘Radical needs’, emerges as the result of the
ism to the society of ‘associated producers’ when
contradiction capitalism develops between the indishe insists that the creatures existing under the
vidual’s need to develop his personality and the
latter will have such different ‘senses’ that’no
‘accidental’ character of his subordination to the
comparison of their needs with earlier needs is
division of labour.

possible. To my mind, however, a theory of needs
What are these ‘Radical needs’ which are both
which is content to refer us to the alienation of
generated within capitalism and yet external to it,
needs under capitalism, on the ‘one hand, and to the
unsatisfiable under it, and the grounds of its trans’radically re-structured human being with his
cendence? In the first place, argues HelIer, the
radically new set of needs’, on the other, has
need for free time. Such a need ‘transcends partievaded a crucial part of its task. At this point,
cular interests and contains in principle that which
it seems to me, HelIer presents us witll ‘Marxist
conforms to the human species’. At the same time,
philosophy’ at its most retrograde, that is to say,
capitalism cannot satisfy it because beyond a certshe offers us the most blatant substitution of
ain point valorisation is incompatible with a further
philosophy for political theory. At the very least,
shortening of the working day. Secondly, the ‘need
one must raise the question of how much point there
for universality’: the other side of the extreme
is in presenting a Marxist theory of needs which bydivision of labour is the emergence of a need for
passes the issue of its strategic import within the
‘fully developed individuals fit for a variety of
current climate of Marxist thought, and which fails
labours, ready to face any change in production •.. ‘

to acknowledge the extent to which the provision of
But there are two problems here. Firstly, what
a Marxist theory of needs is put on the agenda
if these ‘Radical needs’ and their expression in the
precisely because of contemporary political events.

form of revolutionary action, fail to surface? What
I have in mind here the dissatisfaction felt by radithen becomes of Heller’s attempt to give concrete
cals with the traditional Marxist. faith in the ability
legitimisation to the concept, ie to deal with the
of capitalism’s ‘contradictions’ and its development
charge that these needs have only a utopian or subof the productive forces to generate socialist socijective-voluntaristic status, rather than reflecting
ety, and the failure hitherto of the so-called socialany ‘necessity’ attaching to capitalist development?

ist economies to plan in any adequate way to meet
Here Heiler can only say that history has yet to
needs. let alone to remove the evils associated
show us whether capitalist society produces the
with capitalist ‘alienation’ (extensive division of
consciousness of alienation (‘Radical needs’) which
labour, repetitive work routines, long hours of
in Marx’s day did not exist, and whose existence
work, class divisions and bureaucratic structures
Marx had therefore to project. Can we be happy,
etc). In this sense, the theory of needs becomes an
however, with what then remains the abstract
important issue because of the failure of Marx’s
imposition of a structure of needs which bears no
‘projections’ of socialist and communist systems of
necessary relationship to the concrete actualities
needs to attain any concrete form; it cannot thereof. existing society?

fore rely simply on reiteration of such projections.

HelIer is not wholly unaware of the abstract level
A second problem relates to the fact that Heller
of her study in this respect, but she justifies it
tells us that ‘Radical needs’ are inherent aspects
of the capitalist structure of needs. These needs
along the following lines:

are not the embryos of a future formation but
Marx and rarely deal with the ‘how’ of
‘members of the capitalist formation’. Later she
the transition; they limit themselves to the
tells us that the ‘structure of needs in capitalist
comparison of ‘ideal types’. Since we are
society belongs ..• exclusively to capitalist society’

analysing Marx’s theory of needs we too can
– it cannot be used to judge any other society in
work only with these ‘ideal types’. We are
general, and least of all that of ‘the associated
3 K. Marx. Preface to ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’.

Selected Works p182
producers’. This suggests that ‘Radical needs’ bear


therefore forced to exclude a problem which is
crucial to us today, namely the problem of
transition ••• (P100)
Even as the exposition of the ‘ideal type’ the
account she gives is riddled with unanswered questions about its ‘how’. We are simply told that the
base for the future development of production will
be. the extraordinary growth in the proportion of
fixed capital, yet that living labour will still prevail
over dead; that there will be ‘unlimited’ progress
in material production, but that the development of
new material needs is inconceivable; that the division of labour and the mental/manual distinction
will disappear; that labour itself will become a need
instead of a social duty; that it will be inconceivable
that there will be any abyss between labour -and free
time – and so on. In her final pages, HelIer has no
qualms about expressing Marx’s ‘vision’ in the
most mystico-Hegelian terms – eg, what rema~ns
of the ‘objective spirit’ of class society is elevated
to the sphere of the· ‘absolute spirit’; the ‘world
spirit’ is not only recognized in art and philosophy,
but in every human relationship; every individual
is representative of a conformity to the species that
has become real and actual, and ‘he recognizes his
representativeness in every other person and presents himself as such in relation to them’.

To be fair, HelIer admits that such a vision may
be utopian, but she would argue that it is still
fertile. Marx, she claims, ‘establishes a norm
against which· we can m~asure th~ reality and value
of our ideas, and with which one can determine the

Revolutionary Communist No 5
‘Women’s Oppression under Capitalism’.

‘South Africa: The Cris;~ in Britain and the
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limitness of our actions; it expresses the most
beautiil!.l ~spiration of mature humanity, an aspiration that belongs to our Being’. The trouble is that
so far as the theory of needs is concerned this only
seems to bring us back to where we started. Even
if it can be argued that the concrete problems of
transition are the object of a study other than the
one that HelIer sets herself, one might still wan t to
insist that part of the task of a theory of needs was
to discover what is ‘in conformity with our Being’,
and that it cannot present this as an unexamined
presupposition. It seems a pity that despite all the
early promise of this work, and the excellence of
much of its analYSiS, its final offering is this lofty,
but possibly rather vacuous, concept of our Being.

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RacIicaI Confasioa
Hilary Rose and Steven Rose (eds. )
The Political Economy of Science;
The Radicalisation of Science,
Macmillan, i 976, each about 30Opp,
£ 1 0 hardback, £ 3. 95 paper
These immensely expensive books
together contain sixteen articles
divided more or less arbitrarily
into nine dealing with the political
economy of science (PES) and seven
with its radicalisation (RS). No less
than six of the articles are written
by one or both 6f the Roses (five in
PES), and five of these are modified
versions of articles already published elsewhere. Of the remainder,
only two – by Mike Cooley of
AUEW-TASS (in PES), and by
Joseph Needham (in RS) – are by
British authors. With the exception
of Enzenberger’s critique of political ecology (in PES) the other
articles, most of which are of
Continental origin, are relatively

At the outset the Roses insist that
to develop beyond its ‘early pragmatic phase’ to a genuine revolutionary conSCiousness, it is imperative
that the radical science movement
formulate a theoretical perspective.

They have no illusions about the
difficulties which this involves:

‘The magnitude of the theoretical
tasks confronting the movement the need for a political economy
of science in contemporary capitalism, its changing mode .of
production, the proletarial!lsation
of scientific workers, the question
of natural science as a generator
of ideology, and of the ideology of
science with its devaluation of all
non- ‘scientific’ knowledge, its
elitism and the subtleties of its
particular form of sexism and
racism – all these needed definition and welding together theoretically. We had to achieve these
tasks in the knowledge of the past
history of theory and practice on
the question of science in the
revolutionary Marxist movement
– and, in particular, the experience of the Soviet Union and China’

(PES, RS, p. xv)
As a statement of aims this has
much to recommend it; the question
is whether these books provide us
with at least some of the equipment
which we need to achieve those aims.

By and large, as far as I am
concerned, they do not. On the
contrary, as we shall see, the
sloppiness, the superficiality and
the empty rhetoric of much of the
Roses’ work in particular can only
serve to deflect and to confuse subsequent attempts at a radical
critique of science which takes
their pOSition for granted.

The topic of science in the Soviet
Union is handled in one of the best
articles in the collection: Lewontin’ s
and Levin’s ‘The Problem of
Lysenkoism’ (in RS). Emphasising
that Lamarckism was still very

much alive in horticulture in the
1930s, the authors argue that the
Lysenkoist movement was not
simply an ‘affair’ but a genuine
attempt at a scientific and cultural
revolution. It was a revolution in
which an exuberant and enthusiastic
communistic youth confronted elitist academicians who rationalised
their privileged position by appealing to the value of ‘detached’ ,
‘pure’ science. We know that the
revolution failed, and that the importance of Lys,enkoism has de cl ined
.in Russia. Yet, contrary to common
opinion, Lewontin and Levins argue
that Russian agriculture did not
suffer apprecia”l>le damage due to
the application of Lysenkoist practices between 1948 and 1962. In
fact, they show tha:t wheat crop
yields in both Russia and the USA
increased at roughly the same rate
from 1950 onwards, although of
course the absolute yields in the
latter were more than double those
in the Soviet Union, as they had been
since before 1930. This is a remark·
able conclusion which cannot but
force a reappraisal of the Lysenko
debate as it is conventionally
conducted in the West.

It is here surely that the importance of this article lies for us.

Without it, I might add, one would
be led to believe that developments
in Russia were hardly worthy of
close analysis by a radical science
movement. For insofar as the Roses
treat of science in socialist societies, they conSistently adopt the line
that it is to China that we must turn
if we wish to learn what a liberated
socialist science would look like.

Science for the people in China,
science for oppression in both the
Soviet Union and the capitalist West;
this is the now pOlitically safe
stance which the editors adopt on
the basis of the most cursory discussion of the relationship between
science and society in the countries

Needham’s article (in RS) shows
just how congenial this sinophilia
can be to people the
science movement can do without.

The inclusion of this essay I regard
to be an act of political irresponsibility. According to :N eedham it is
the adoption of Chinese values that
will save the West from the mechanical materialism which the counterculture, spear-headed by Roszak,
has reacted against. The Chinese
are levelheaded, they have a cooperative mentality, they espouse
an organic humanism. This dominance of morality in contemporary
Chinese society, he says, is specifically represented by the slogan
‘Put politics in command’! Needham,
I have been told, believes, that these
values can only blossom under
socialism, but this article certainly
does not make that clear. An ethical
revolution, not a socio-political one,
is the programme he seems to advocate, a view which is buttressed
by his grossly misleading claim that

Mao was a ‘social and ethical philosopher, not a military man’! (RS
Turning now to the incorporation of
science and technology into the
structure of advanced capitalist
society, there is firstly Mike
Cooley’s SOlid, unpretentious and
informative account of the role of
science in the labour process. Here
at least we have the beginning of an
analysis of the social relations of
production in contemporary capitalism. His piece is complemented by
Gorz’s (in PES) in which it is argued
that capital exercises control over
‘young scientists’ not only ideologically, but also by encouraging the
specialisation of scientific tasks and
by the production of an ‘over-abundance of scientific talent’ which constitutes a kind of industrial reserve
army. Gorz’s arguments are not
particularly convincing; the Roses’

study of the incorporation of science
(in PES), on the other hand, is’downright evasive and misleading. For
example, they propose that an analysis of science policy over the past
few decades will throw light on the
relations of state and science in the
context of the present crisis. A paragraph which summarises Bernal’ s
position then fOllows, in which it is
asserted that capitalist science is
used to maintain state power and to
generate profit. Of course, no Marxist analysis should state baldly that
science generates profit; nor, for
that matter, should it assert that
‘natural science generates ideology’,
as the Roses did in their quoted statement of aims. It is the capitalist
class which appropriates scientific
knowledge and embodies it in different ways at different periods in the
productive process so as to facilitate
the extraction of surplus value from
the working population. Similarly, it
is the capitalist class which articulates and disseminates ideology, not
some disembodied abstraction
labelled ‘natural science’. Changing
material conditions demand changing
responses from this class, and any
Marxist historical analysis of the
relationship between the state and
science would have to take this into
account. Such an approach is not
possible though, given the Roses’

conceptual apparatus. Since both
science and capitalism are still
around, they are able glibly, to
assert in the very next paragraph
that the reasons for state invol vement in science in the late 1950s
and the 1960s ‘are clear’. What is
not clear, and what needs analysing
are the specific forms which the
extraction of surplus value and the
entrenchment of class power took at
this time. It is obvious from the
Roses’ haphazard selection from
Marx’s writings in their ‘theoretical’ chapter (in PES), that they are
in no position to even pose such
questions, let alone set about trying
to answer them. Their ahistorical,
abstract approach is more convenient anyway – it can dissolve every

potential embarrassment in a line.

HOW, for example, do we account for
the fact that even now, in times of
economic stress, funding for
‘particular areas’ of ‘pure’ science
continues? Well, science generates
profit and maintains state power,
doesn’t it? So these areas have
obviously ‘been seen both by governments and industry as integral to
their political or economic purpose’

(PES, pI8). Q. E. D.

Both of these books are subtitled
‘Ideology of/in the natural sciences’

One would have expected that some
attempt would have been made to
confront the problem of ideology
head-on, involving minimally a description and clarification of the
different senses in which the term
is used, their strengths and their
weaknesses. What one finds is that
the concept is used with reckless
abandon. Granted one gains the
impression that ideology is inextricably linked with domination. But how
specifically ideological domination
operates, and thus how it is to be
.counteracted, of this we find little
trace. For example, Levy-Leblond,
whose article (in RS) contains an
interesting if not particularly novel
account of the way in which power is
distributed in contemporary phYSics,
ends his contribution with the
stirring claim that the ‘long-term
abolition of the distinction between
the scientific knowledge of an elite
and the empirical knowledge of the
mass, maintained in existence today
by the dominant ideology, will demand a radical modification of
science’ (RS, pI75). This view does
not exactly square with his claim
made earlier in the paper that,
because of the esoteric and spectacular character of fundamental
physics its popularisation might
exacerbate mystification rather than
destroy it. This is surely a cardinal
point. For what it suggests is that
the hierarchical organisation and
the division of labour within some
kinds of scientific practice might be
an unavoidable consequence of the
sheer complexity of the discipline
involved. For some this is an unpalatable conclUSion, but slogans
won’t demolish it. What is needed,
minimally, is an understanding of
the precise way in which the organisation of fundamental research is
ideological, and why.

One sense in which Levy- Leblond
uses the term ideology is that which
identifies it with the values or goals
which scientific research is directed
towards. From this perspective, as
he recognises, the advent of socialism does not mean the end of ideology; it means the substitution of a
different science with its own ideology (ie values or goals). In
similar vein, Rose and Hanmer
speak of ‘conflicting ideologies of
birth control’ in their article on
human reproduction. Here the
concept of ideology is taken to mean
the goals for which birth control is
used; we now have ‘scientific birth

control’ by means of the pill, for
example, and an ‘ideological debate
over its employment’ (PES, p150)
ie for liberation or for domination.

This seems to suggest that the scientific knowledge embodied in the pill,
say, is value-free and neutral. It is
only in the question of its technological employment that values come
to the fore, shaping the ends to
which that knowledge is applied. The
choice between such ends is an
‘ideological’ one, and cannot be
settled rationally. Edgley (in RP 15)
has criticised this conception of
science as itself ideological, and has
persuasively argued that it is nondialectical and non-Marxist. The idea
that certain conceptions of SCience,
and perhaps some ‘scientific’ theories
constructed in the light of them, can
themselves be ideological, is also
sometimes suggested by the Roses.

At one point they speak of dialectical
theories as ‘truly scientific rather
than ideological’ (PES pl02) which
suggests that a non-dialectical programme, which they take the reductionist paradigm in biology to be, is
ideological per se. But the Roses’

acritical and unselfconscious use of
the concept leads them astray. They
also speak of the reductionist paradigm as ‘bad science because it is
ideological’ (PES pll 0). But if it is
non-dialectical t~en, on their earlier
view, it is not bad science; it is not
science at all. It is ideology or
pseudo-science. PseudO-SCiences,
they also tell us, are used ideologically for human oppression, a
different claim again which signals
a relapse into the value-free conception of science discussed earlier.

It is surely impossible to make any
progress under these circumstances.

I do not wish to suggest that the distinction between science and ideology
is easily drawn. But it is a problem,
and what is so frustrating about
these books is that no one seems to
appreciate this. The net result is
confusion and shoddiness.

To be fair to the Roses, if we treat
their articles Simply as schematic
overviews of ongoing debates on the
left, they contain much valuable information which any theory of the
relationship between science, technology and the structure of advanced
capitalism would have to take cognisance of. Their piece on Race and
IQ (in PES) is particularly helpful in
this regard. Articles like that on the
Radicalisation of science (in RS) and
Women’s Liberation and Human
Reproduction (in PES), while undoubtedly helpful, do tend to present
competing views and tendencies in
such synoptic terms that it i& often
difficult to identify key areas in the
debate in question. In this regard the
work on the women’s movement is
particularly puzzling. In their
article Rose and Hanmer suggest, I
think correctly, that there are
definite limits to ‘descriptive work
showing how women are hindered
from entering the institutions of
science’ (PES pI43). Their analysis

is intended to go beyond this. Yet
one of the two articles on women in
science in RS, that by CoutureCherki, is limited in just this way.

The other article by Stehelin is more
enterpriSing, yet again covers a
wide spectrum of issues without
investigating any particular one in


Both of these books are to be
translated into several languages.

The Roses’ views are thus likely to
be widely disseminated and discussed, discussed I may add without
the. benefit of direct access to
Werskey’s important criticism of
their position in Radical Science
Journal, No.2/3. The editors dedicate the books to the ‘heroic people
of Indochina’, who have already
crossed the first hurdle in their
struggle to develop a socialist
science. Given the absence of
Werskey’s critique, and in the light
of the misgivings I have aired, it is
debatable whether these books will
advance the struggle of the heroic
people of this country, and other
SOCieties, whose daily lives are
crippled and stunted by capitalist
science and technology.

John Krige

Mal’x a Speacel’?

Joseph Needham, Moulds of
Understanding: A Pattern of
Natural Philosophy, edited and
introduced by Gary Wersky,
Allen and Unwin, £7.75Joseph Needham is a remarkable
person: eminent embryologist;
leading authority on the history of
Chinese science and technology;
he regards himself as a marxist,
an ‘honorary Taoist’, and a follower
of the mystical Christian theology of
Rudolf Otto. A seemingly incongruous combination, yet one which must
make him an appealing figure to anyone who feels textural echoes of the
I Ching in On Contradiction, or is
struck by the similarities between
Engels’ introduction to Dialectics of
Nature and a pop mysticism such as
Watts’ The Joyous Cosmology.

This work is intended to introduce
his thinking both to readers of his
Science and Civilisation in China,
and to all those who are critically
concerned with technological rationality in bourgeois society. It comprises a critical and biographical
introduction; essays selected from
four books that appeared between
1927 and 1941; and the texts of two
lectures delivered in the early 1970s.

Considering this time span, there is
less inconsistency than might be expected; and as the selection has been
approved by the author, it is justified
to regard them as a whole.

Needham derives his world-vision
from many sources, which he
regards as complementary and
mutually illuminating. These are:

– The study of the principles and
mechanisms of biological organisa-

tion, and the categories needed to
overcome the sterile debate between
mechanists and neo-vitallsts.

– Herbert Spencer’s generalisation
of the idea of evolution into a theory
explaining all change, and the metaphysical elaborations of this by
Whitehead and de Chardin.

– Marx and Engels’ extension of
evolution beyond Spencer’s limiting
class horizons, so as to comprehend
contradictio.n and its overcoming as
constitutive of the historical process.

– Traditional Chinese culture, with
its integration of immanentist
religion, technological progress and
social responsibility.

Und.erlying all Needham’s concerns
is the belief that organisation is
intrinsic to matter, life and society;
and that these are hierarchically
related, irreducible levels, whose
structures 3.4e analogous. This
premise clashes with the apparent
conflict between science and religion; he deals with this by the doctrine that experience is differentiated
into forms which are incommensurable but complementary. He asserts
that there are five such modes:

SCience, religion, art, history,
philosophy. No justification is given
for this segmentation of the understanding, nor why it should have just
these five modes.

But to accept the untranslatability
of forms of experience is to deny that
they can be critically analysed; each
must be accepted in its own terms.

For Needham, as for others, the
major role of this doctrine is to
defend religion. To the theists who
hold that religion can be rationally
validated, Needham must reply that
they are wrong, that his category of
religion logically excludes some of
what has been called ‘religion’; that
religion is qualitative and particularist, against science which is quantitative and abstract. Following OUo,
he takes the core of religion to be
the experience of the ‘numinous’;
Otto insists that this notion is utterly
inexplicable to one without experience of it, and he attempts to explain
it by analogising from feelings of
abasement, awe and love. Needham’s
use of this notion is loose and its
function is largely laudatory; it
allows him to regard social relations
in the Soviet Union and China as
expressions of religiosity. SCience,
he views through the paradigm
offered by physics. His attitude
towards its epistemological status
changes from naive realist, th:rough
relativist-constructivist to ‘dialectical’ realist.

The doctrine that modes of understanding are discrete islands makes
it impossible to theorise cultural
history; it can only be pictured as
oscillations between poles – the flux
between the Yin and the Yang. A
perspective which insists that
‘religion … is concrete and individual … qualitative in feeling,
opposed to measurement and
analysis, “cornucopial” instead of
orderly’ (P213) can make no sense

of the long tradition which regards
the practices of mathematics and of
my sticism as somehow deeply
related. This is an acute weakness
in Needham because he often approvingly quotes Sir Thomas Browne’ s
16th-century writings on the numerical patterns of ancient ‘gardens of
symmetrical vegetables’ as revealing ‘the mysticall mathematicks of
the City of Heaven’.

Needham’s overall view is that the
actual resolution of antagonisms
between modes is through the incorporation of oppositions into the synthetic unity which is their object.

This is evolution, in its most extended sense: a universal process
generating greater differentiation
of parts, together with more
complex integrations between them.

We cannot consider Nature otherwise than as a series of levels of
organisation, a series of dialectical syntheses. From ultimate
physical particle to atom, from
atom to molecule, from molecule
to colloidal aggregate, from
aggregate to living cell, from cell
to organ, from organ to body,
from animal body to social
organisation. (p219)
Organisational levels (or ‘envelopes’) are functionally related in
complex systems; and complexity of
order is the category.which models
all novelty in history:

that . .. long procession of
morphological forms and
physiological achievements …

the first coelomic organisation,
the first endocrine mechanism,
the first osmo-regulatory
success, the first vertebral
column, the first appearance of
consciousness, the first making
of a tool. (p153)
This pan-evolutionism gives him a
perspective of gran~ optimism,
within which the emergence of
communism is as inevitable as was
the formation of primitive cells
from giant protein molecules. One
version of Hegel’s lectures has
him claiming that ‘the state is the
march of God through the world’.

For Needham, communism is the
goal of God after his march through
the molecules
A frequent criticism of this view
is that it entails political apathy, as
all that can be accomplished is the
acceleration or retardation of a
necessary process. In fact, this
pan-evolutionism is irrelevant to
the attainment of communism. It
may be that the constitution of
matter necessitates the formation
of life-bearing planets, but this
implies nothing about the emergence
of life in a given planetary system.

Similarly, the claim that a biosphere tends to generate sO,cial
being, consciousness, class-war
and communism says nothing about
the completion of this process on a
given planet. There is nothing in
Needham (or in Engels) to show that
each stage of organisation everywhere generates a higher stage;

nothing to prevent a given line of
evolution sticking at a low level.

In their perspective it is as unimportant that a given planet remains at the protozoan level of
organisation as that it festers in a
slave economy. In the words of
Needham’ s revered Lao Tsu:

‘Heaven and earth are ruthless and
treat the myriad creatures as
straw dogs’ (Tao Te Ching, ch.5,
Lau trans.)
In the tradition of Engels, Needham
happily takes the notion of contradiction as boundlessly accommodating:

Instances of dialectical development in scientific knowledge are so
numerous that a few moments
thought provides an embarrassingly large selection (p220)
For example, until the 19th century
there was a dispute between ‘The
Ovists (who) believed that mammals
developed from the egg alone’, and
‘The Animalculists (who) believed
that the animal originated from the
spermatozoon only’; this antithesis
was overcome when ‘the functions
of egg and spermatozoon were understood, and the contradiction was
resolved’ (P221). Applying this
notion to the English bourgeois
revolution tells us that:

Feudal royalism found its antithesis in the radical puritan
republicanism of the Commonwealth period. But the time was
not ripe for the ideas of the
Levellers and Independents, and
the Restoration was a dialectical
synthesis. (p223)
Thus, whatever was, was right,
its !”ationality guaranteed by the
triadic movement of emergence.

Needham’s belief that order and
progress are immanent in the world
is the link between his earlier. work
on the chemical mechanisms of
embryogeny and his still continuing
project on the science, technology
and culture of China. On his View,
classical China avoided the traps
with which the Judaeo-Christian
tradition dichotomised the world
into creator and created, sacred
and profane, mental and manual.

Thus, the philosophy which in
Europe emerged as historical materialism into a hostile and distorting
milieu, has always been present as
a living current in China; that whilst
Western socialism must struggle
not only against the bourgeoisie but
against a rooted assumption of the
sinfulness of man, for China its
cultural assumption is that man is
naturally social and the world a
harmonious process.

At a time when many are lOOking
Eastwards in a search for ‘alternatives’ to SCience, it is valuable to
have the reflections of a brilliant,
warm and sincere man, who is
uniquely situated in relation to the
concerns of ‘today’s pOlitical and
religious activists’ (edJs intro. p14).

Needham gladly accepts Thomas
Browne’s words on man as a self
characterisation: ‘that great and
true amphibium, whose nature is

djsposed to live not only like other
creatures in diverse elements but
in divided and distinguished worlds’

(quoted p169). For those of us who
regard mysticism as a selflobotomy, it is a healthy relief that
he flounders.

David Murray

Waitl.. thewol’ken
Franz Jakubowski, Ideology and
Superstructure in Historical
Materialism, trans. Anne Booth,
London, Allison and Busby, 1976,
132pp, £5.25 hardback £2.95 paper
Ideology and Superstructure was
first published in Danzig in 1936 as
the outcome of a doctoral thesis.

Its author, of Trotskyite and
Frankfurt school formation (he
studied at Basle university under
Fritz Belleville, a friend and disciple of Korsch), had but a brief
pOlitical career as spokesman in the
early Thirties of the Spartacus
League in Danzig. In the same year
as his book was published he was
arrested by the Nazis and condemned
to three years’ imprisonment at the
Danzig trials. His family secured
him an early release from jail,
however, and he· thereafter lived in
exile in America under the name of
Frank Fisher until his death in 1970.

How are we to relate today to this
youthful and isolated example of
Jakubowski’s thoughts on historical
materialism? It must be admitted,
I think, that despite its English publishers’ claim that ‘it stands out
uniquely from the period of virtual
coma into which Marxist thought
seemed to have fallen between the
early 1920s and recent years’, it
scarcely comes as a dose of adrenalin. It has, not surprisingly, a
distinctly dated air about it, and its
interest must surely be mainly historical – and even in that respect
limited. For Jakubowski is unconcerned with the historical events of
the Thirties (to which his book
scarcely refers) but with the
‘correct’ exposition of the texts of
Marx and Engels. Specifically, then,
its historical interest lies in its
interest as an intervention in the
climate of Marxist theory thrown up
by the 2nd and 3rd International.

Having said that, it should also be
acknowledged that it offers a
succinct and lucid introduction to
the Lukacian interpretation of
historical materialism, and could
well serve as a text-book in this

For Jakubowski, ‘correct’ Marxism means a Marxism (based almost exclusively on the 1844
Manuscripts and the 1859 Preface)
whose fundamental concept is that of
‘humanism’ and whose central philosophical contribution lies in its expression of the unity of thought and
being, theory and practice.

Jakubowski is concerned with


rescuing Marx and Engels from
economistic and ‘metaphysicalmaterialist’ interpretations. Almost
everyone other than Lukacs and
Korsch is found guilty of distorting
historical materialism, either by
Kantianizing Marx (Max Adler and
his followers) or by equating materialism with naturalistic matter
rather than with social being, and
by separating the scientific aspect
of Marxism from its status as expression of the proletarian movement (Hilferding, Plekhanov, Lenin).

So strongly anti-economistic and
anti-naturalistic is Jakubowski’s
conception that he practically abandons historical materialism altogether in favour of a theory in
which subjective consciousness
plays the determining role in historical development. In his concern to
stress that consciousness is a part
of social being, social being is all
but dissolved into human consciousness, and we are offered, for
example, a somewhat Sartrean conception of the economy: ‘economic
relations are the original unforeseeable product of an aggregation of
voluntaristic impulses from individual consciousnesses … ‘ And when
it comes to the determination in the
last instance by the economic it is
suggested that this ‘monist’ conception is appropriate only from a
methodological point of view. For
Jakubowski, not only does the last
instance never in fact arrive, it was
never ever really there. All the
aspects of the social totality interpenetrate dialectically in a kind of
equilibrium offorces, and it is only
from a conceptual point of view that
it is important to distinguish them.

But what is the conceptual distinction reflecting in the first place if
it is not something pertaining to the
concrete? And why is it important?

Of course, one is sympathetic to
Jakubowski’s rejection of crudely
fundamentalist accounts of the relations between infrastructure and
superstructure. But the paradox is
that he himself remains too dominated by the topological model to
escape the mechanistic account that
it invites. Thus, though he is critical of the ‘schematic finality’ of
theories such as Plekhanov’s, he
himself presents an even more
schematic three-tier model (economic base, legal and political order,
ideological superstructure) based on
.wholesale adoption of the 1859
Preface formulation, which is then
welded together into a dialectical
totality with the aid of countless
‘connecting links’, ‘interactions’,
‘retroactions’ and ‘mediations’.

Now two things seem to be wrong
with this approach. One is that concepts such as ‘mediation’, ‘interaction’ etc remain descriptive and
abstract – one wants to see them at
work in concrete analysis: what
exactly is a mediation? How does it
operate in practice? But more
importantly, perhaps, the account
in terms of a unified expressive

totality, with which such concepts
are frequently linked, seems to be
misconceived from the start in that
it fails to locate contradiction and

There are many reflections of this
failure in Jakubowski’ s work. There
is a problem, for example, right at
the start about how to get classes
into the picture – thus we are told
that it is the mode of production in
which appropriation takes place by
means of exchanges between individuals that ’causes society to split
into classes’. We find another
instance in the fact that the revolutionary character of the proletariat
can only be accommodated by allowing that ‘in a sense the proletariat
already stands outside bourgeois
SOCiety’ – revolution, in fact, is
seen as relatively unconnected with
any accumulation of contradictions
within the capitalist mode of production; it is simply that at a given
moment the proletariat realises its
own self-alienation, thereby transcending it in thought and from that
standpoint initiating the revolution
which installs its de-alienation in

The uncritical glOSSing over of the
problems which attach to the 1859
Preface account of the relationship
between the forces of production and
relations of production (with its
notion of their ‘correspondence’ at
one stage of development, and their
‘conflict’ at another) is also responsible for inadequacies and inconsistencies in Jakubowski’ s account of
ideology – on which he particularly
concentrates. At one point it is
suggested that ideology is a kind of
residue of certain material relations
‘which have lost their material
reality but have not yet quite discarded their “conscious” expression’;
elsewhere the ideological superstructure is described as the ‘form’

in which men become conscious of
class struggles (as opposed to the
political and legal superstructure
where these struggles actually
occur); at other times ideology is
presented as the expression of the
social totality to which it corresponds; and then again, we are
offered an account in terms of
‘partial’ or false consciousness (the
ideology of the bourgeois classes,
which is only capable of a one-sided
understanding of the total reality)
from which the proletariat escapes
by virtue of its negative relation to
bourgeois SOCiety:

‘Historical materialism …

recognizes that the proletariat
is fundamentally distinct from
all other classes in bourgeois
society since it is, from the
beginning a (negative) totality,
a kind of society outside bourgeois society. Hence its standpoint
cannot be described as partial,
nor is its consciousness ideological’ (Pl00)
What is common to all these conceptions is the identification of ideology with consciousness, which pre-

‘cludes from the start an approach
which regards consciousness as
part of the problem of ideology,
rather than vice-versa, and analyses the latter as a function in the
production of (rather than simply as
expression of) the ways in which the
thinking subject relates to the world.

I have already given some indication of the pOlitical implications of
Jakubowski’s interpretation of Marxism – the main one being that revolutionary change is made dependent
primarily on revolutionary con..

sciousness and only secondarily on
revolutionary practice. Since, in
fact, of course, Jakubowski must
confront the problem of which comes
first, or whether one does not presuppose the other, he is led to posit
a more ‘progressive’ or more
‘class conscious’ sector of the proletariat whose role is to explain the
actions of the working class to itself and thereby orient it to its goaL
The final pages of his book, in
which this position is elaborated,
represent an exercise in political
theorising deSigned to avoid the twin
evils, as Jakubowski sees them, of
spontaneism on the one hand and
Leninism on the other. It leads to
what I find a strangely fatalistic
account of the relations between
theory and practice in which it is
suggested that the working-class
movement can only adopt Marxist
theory when that theory corresponds to the movement’s practice and we have no alternative but to
wait for the moments in history at
which the proletariat is in fact ‘in a
revolutionary mood’ because until
theri any attempt to ‘harness’ the
theory to it (whether made from
within or from without the working
class) will be voluntaristic. But
such a conception surely relies on a
quite static notion of theory (ie one
which does not think in terms of its
development at all), and is, in fact,
quit.e at odds with Jakubowski’ s
professions as to the unity of theory
and practice.

Kate Soper

Ma ..x on Value
yalue: studies by Marx. translated
and edited by Albert Dragstedt,
London, New Park Publications,
1976, £1.75
This book contains new translations
of four texts of Marx’ s:

1 The Commodity – Chapter One of
the First Edition of Capital
2 The Form of Value – Appendix to
the First Edition of Capital yolume One
3 Results of the Immediate Process
of Production
4 Marginal Notes on Wagner.

Previous translations:

1 Capital Chapter One – the
Commodity published by Labor
Publications, NY, 1972, is
identical with its equivalent here:

the American translator ‘Axel

Davidson’ is no doubt one and the
same person as Albert Dragstedt.

2 I have a copy of a translation in
typescript by W. Suchting and M.


3 The ‘Results’ is in an appendix to
the recent Penguin edition of
Capital volume One.

4 (a) Karl Marx Texts on Method.

ed. T. Carver, 1975 (see my
review in Radical Philosophy 13)
(b) Issued by British and Irish
Communist Organisation.

(c) Theoretical Practice No. 5.

The book before us brings together
texts on value which have been
rather inaccessible until recently
and which throw additional light on
Marx’s struggle to perfect his critique of Political Economy. The
translator ‘makes no apology for
declining to liquidate the granular,
craggy, dialectical diction of Marx’;
and he says that he has ‘generally
chosen to err on the side of pedantic
exactitude, especially since the
English-speaking world has had such
difficulty in adjusting itself to the
fact that the first chapter of Das
Kapital is the most decisive philos9phical achievement since Hegel’.

The editorial matter varies in tone:

pp4-6, 73-76, 197-199 are scholarly
and useful; whereas pp. xi-xv, 43-48
are sectarian WRP attacks on ‘revisionists’ – notably the leaders of the
Fourth International – and of interest
to psychopathology only. Still, it is
good to record that the WRP’s
‘struggle for dialectical materialism’ has turned up this gem amongst
the garbage – to them goes the honour of first publication in England
of two of the texts here.

These texts are taken from the
First Edition of Capital. When the
first proofs reached Marx he was
staying with Kugelmann in Hanover
and the latter convinced him that
readers needed a supplementary,
more didactic, exposition of the
form of value. Engels wrote to
Marx that he did not think it was
worth doing this. addendum, but did
agree that the dialectic of the valueform was unclear and should have
been laid out in the manner of
Hegel’s Encyclopedia. On 22 June
1867 Marx replied to Engels:

‘As to the development of the form
of value I have and have not – followed your advice, in order to
behave dialectically in this respect
as well. That is to say I have
1) written an appendix in which I
describe the same thing as simply
and pedagogically as possible, and
2) followed your advice and divided
each step in the development into
§§, etc., with separate headings.

In the preface I then tell the ‘nondialectical’ reader that he should
skip pages x-y and read the appendix instead. Here not merely
philistines are concerned but youth
eager for knowledge, etc. Besides
the matter is too decisive for the
whole book. ‘

The two first parts of the book

before us comprise the original first
chapter plus the appendix on the form
of value. For the second edition of
Capital M~rx reworked the whole
first chapter as he explains in a

‘In Chapter 1, Section 1, the derivation of value by analysis of the
equations in which every exchangevalue is expressed has been carried
out With greater scientific strictness; similarly, the connection
between the substance of value and
the determination of the magnitude
of value by the labour-time socially
necessary, which was only alluded
to in the first edition, is now
expressly emphasized. Chapter 1,
Section 3 (on the form of value),
has been completely revised, a
task which was made necessary by
the two-fold presentation of it in
the first edition. .. The last section of the first chapter, “The
Fetishism of Commodities, etc. If,
has been altered considerably. ‘

If Marx thought that he had solved
his problems by reworking the first
chapter and incorporating the appendix on value-form, what worth is
there in publishing the original
materials (other than that of bibliographical completeness)? One reason is already given us by Marx ‘the matter is too decisive for the
whole book’. Any scrap of evidence
as to Marx’s intentions in Chapter
One is therefore valuable. This is
made more important by the difficulty of the argument, admitted by
Marx himself in the Preface, and
some points in the appendix seem
clearer than in the second edition.

Additional importance is given to the
material by its clearly dialectical
nature. In the Postface to the second
edition Marx makes reference to his
debt to Hegel in this connection; he
recalls that he even ‘here and there
in the chapter on value, coquetted
with the mode of expression peculiar’ to Hegel.

This brings us to one of the pOints
of comparison between the two editions: the second edition shows less
evidence of any flirtation with Hegel.

Following the strictures of Kugelmann and Engels, Marx no doubt
wanted to give the philistine the
least possible excuse for complaining of dialectical paradoxes. The
substance of the matter is unaffected
but for students of the relation between Hegel and Marx the first edition chapter one is more relevant.

It is also interesting to note that in
the second edition Marx gives extra
emphasis to the question of commodity fetishism. A paragraph of the
appendix (which includes the famous
sentence ‘this I call the fetishism ….’);
together with new material, is
worked in, and the whole given its
own section heading.

This may be counted an advance,
as may the reworkings of the valueform, which is one of Marx’s most
brilliant innovations and sets him
decisively in advance of Ricardo.

(Amongst other things it demon47

Ir——————————————————–strates how the money-form is
present in germ in the simplest
expression of value, where one
commodity expresses the valueequivalent of another. )
However, it is not the case that all
an author’s innovations in his own
text are helpful. It is curious that
at the same time as the development
of the last two sections of chapter
one, which bring out more clearly
that value (stripped of its fetish
character) is a social relation,
Marx introduces in the second section a rather unfortunate formulation .in the definition of abstract
labour. In the first edition Marx
summarises the difference between
concrete and abstract labour as’


‘It follows . .. not that there are
two differing kinds of labour lurking in the commodity, but rather
that the same labour is specified
in differing and even contradictory
manner – in accordance with whether it is related to the use-value
of the commodity as labour’s m:Q,duct or related to the commodityvalue as its merely objective
expression. ‘

(p16 of the present translation)
In the second edition he replaces
this summary by the well-known
concluding sentence of section two:

‘all labour is an expenditure of
human labour-power, in the physiological sence, and it is in this
quality of being equal, or abstract,
human labour that it forms the value

of commodities.’

This definition gives rise to a misplaced ‘materialism’ in the treatment of the substance of value by
friends and enemies alike. I. I. Rubin
has shown in his Essays on Marx’s
Theory of Value (reviewed by me in
Radical Philosophy 11) the necessity
of avoiding a physiological understanding of abstract labour. See
also my article ‘Marx’s concept of
abstract labour’ (which makes use of
the first edition) in Bulletin of the
Conference of Socialist Economists
October 1976.

Rubin points out (p147n) that in the
French edition of Volume One of
Capital (1875), Marx gives both
definitions; first of all he repeats
the above-quoted definition from the
first edition after which follows the
definition of the second edition.

‘It must not be forgotten, ‘ says
Rubin, ‘that as a general rule, in
the French edition of Capital, Marx
simplified and in places shortened
his exposition. However, on this
given point he felt it necessary to
supplement and complicate the
characterization of abstract labour,
thus recognising, it would seem,
the inadequacy of the definition of
abstract labour given in the second
edition. ‘

This collection of Marx texts is
essential for institutional collections
while serious students of Marx’s
theory of value, and dialectical
method, will find it a useful addition
to their own libraries.

Chris Arthur

Books received

Gleeson, D. ed. Identity and
Structure: issues in the sociology
of education, Yorkshire, afferton,
1977, £2.95
Machlud, F. ed. Essays on Hayek,
London, RKP, 1977, £4.25
Ragg, N. M. People not Cases: a
philosophical approach to social
work, London, RKP, 1977, £4.25
Waddington, C. H. Tools for Thought
London, Cape, 1977, £5.95
Toploski, J. Methodology of History,
trans. O. Wojtasiewicz, Dodrecht
Holland, D. Reidel, 1976, £15.00
Fraser, J. An Introduction to the
Thought of Galvano Della Volpe,
London, Lawrence & Wishart,
1977, £3.00
Thompson, E. P. William Morris:

romantic to revolutionary, London,
Merlin Press, 1977
Groddeck, G. The Meaning of
Illness: selected psychoanalytical
writings, London, Hogarth and
Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1977,
Cousin, Victor, Defense de
I ‘Universite et de la Philosophie,
presente par Danielle Ranciere,
Paris. Solin

HOdge, J. L. et aI, Cultural Bases
of Racism and Grou p Oppression
Berkeley, Cal, Two Riders Press,
I 1975, $3.85
Ryle, G. ed. Contemporary
Aspects of Philosophy, Stocksfield,
Northumberland, Oriel Press
(Routledge & Kegan Paul) 1977,
later, P. Origin and Significance
of the Frankfurt School: A Marxist
perspective, London and Henley,
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977,
agleton, T. Ideology & Criticism,
London, NLB, 1976, £4.95
lover, J. ed. The Philosophy of
.M.illi1. London, OUP, 1977, £1.50
ells, D. Meaning, Understanding,
Interpretation, Bristol, David
Wells, 1976, 50p (pamphlet)
oucault, M. Histoire de la
sexualite – 1· La volonte de savoir,
Par!s, Gallimard, 1976, n. p.

‘Neill, J. ed. On Critical Theory,
London, Heinemann, 1977, £5.50
cBride, W. L. The Philosophy of
~ London, Hutchinson, 1977,
£5.50, pb £2.75
hanan, M. ed. Chilean Cinema,
London, BFI, 1977, £0.75
oule, L., Owens, G. The Module:

a democratic alternative in
education, Hudd~rsfield, SLD
Publications, 1977, £1. 80



Dialectic Project
A conference is to be held in London
in September; for information
contact Sean Sayers, Philosophy
Dept, University of Kent at

For various reasons, the news section in this issue is unusually short.

We will publish more extended news
reports in RP18, including a full
account of the 1977 RP Festival.

Please send material to the news
editor at our London address. HP
Newsletter number 4 was produced
in March by the Bristol group; the
newsletter published reports on
local RP groups, other local and
international news, and discussions
of RP’s problems and activities.

To contribute, or to receive copies
of the newsletter, please write with
s. a. e. to the news editor.

Oxford RP held a well-attended
series of counter-course seminars
last term on the ‘history of philosophy’ from Descartes to Kant.

Beginning on 27 April they are
running an 8-week univerSity lecture
series called ‘History and understanding – an introduction to hermen,
eutics’, organised by Joanna Hodge,
covering Dilthey, Husserl,
Heidegger, Gadamer, Habermas,
Apel and Ricoeur (Wednesdays,
2. 30pm, Balliol lecture room 23:

all are welcome). For other Oxford
news, plans and projects see RP
Newsletter 5.

Communist University of London 9
CUL9 takes place between 9 and 17
July. Through a variety of courses
it offers a Marxist critique of subjects as they are taught in the
colleges and seeks to present and
develop the ongoing debate within
Marxism itself. There are 25
specialist courses, 17 general
courses, 14 courses on problems of
Marxist theory and politics, and a
wide variety of evening events films, mUSic, debates etc.

Registration costs £ 8, advance
deposit £ 2. There are free creche
facilities. To register or obtain a
free prospectus write to Sally
Hibbin, CUL9, c / 0 16 King Street,
London WC2E 8HY
Notes on contributors
Michele le Doeuff teaches philOsophy at the Ecole Normale
Superieure de Fontenay, France;
she is a member of Grephon the
group whose study of school
philosophy essays was described in
RP16. Ian Craib teaches sociology
at Essex University. Kate Soper
teaches philosophy at North London
Polytechnic. John Krige is teaching
and researching in philosophy of
science at Sussex University
Martine Meskel and Michael Ryan
are students at the Ecole Normale
Superieure, Paris

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